In education management, it’s common to talk about a “whole-school approach”. Inacademy trusts, this goes a step further, and to raise standards and deliver an elevated teaching and learning experience across the entire organisation, you have to talk about a “whole-trust approach”.
It’s common when it comes to technology that schools joining a trust will be at different stages of their journey – there is often a standardising process that the organisation must go through to bring them up to speed. But in order to do this, the organisation needs an overarching digital strategy or vision – and that’s where the whole-trust approach comes in.
Here are some steps to creating and implementing a whole-trust digital strategy for your MAT.
An important place to start with your digital strategy is to ask yourself a question – what is your vision for digital in your trust? This useful resource developed by the Independent Schools Council has ten questions designed to prompt you about your goals and targets for digital strategy. It also helps you to get a sense of where you are now – asking what would happen if your internet connection was severed, for example.
Once you know where you are, and where you want to go, it’s useful to summarise this in a vision statement which can be easily communicated and emulated by your organisations into your member schools. This can then obviously be backed up by a more detailed and in-depth strategy document with measurable outcomes and implementation steps.
There are also some very useful resources for building digital frameworks from Microsoft. Once you have your vision and your strategy document in place, it’s important that the communication across the trust around the strategy is strong – everybody must be on board and sharing the wider vision in order to help it succeed.
Centralisation vs autonomy
A common debate in the leadership of multi-academy trusts is centralisation and standardisation vs allowing autonomy and individualisation in the member schools.
When it comes to digital, it’s important to remember that you may have member schools which are at very different stages in their digital journey. Some may require more investment in terms of actual resources – bringing in up-to-date devices, infrastructure, etc. Some may need more support in terms of the strategy and training side. It’s vital to ascertain this at the beginning of your journey as a trust.
Autonomy can give individual schools the space to innovate, which you can then use to innovate in other schools in the trust – but it’s also important to keep it centred to the shared vision, and ensure consistency in the relevant technology being used so it’s easier to manage and monitor across the organisation. In short, it’s about striking the right balance, identifying what needs to be consistent and centralised and what can be decentralised and individualised in different schools in order to achieve a shared vision.
Teachers and teaching assistants are the key to making your digital strategy a success. If they’re not using the tools you’re giving them to their full potential, and not adopting a digital-first mindset, then you can’t hope to drive true transformation. Strongly embedding digital techniques and technologies into ongoing training and CPD is vital in ensuring widespread adoption of technology and the success of your strategy.
We’ve talked here before about the benefits of centralising CPD in MATs – and this will be key to ensuring your digital strategy is a whole-trust approach, rather than being taken and run with by individuals in member schools. Educators need to be taken on that journey with everyone else – being signed up to the digital vision and how this will help them improve educational outcomes.
Engaging students and parents
Adoption by educators in the key to unlocking your digital strategy, but being able to successfully engage students and parents is what will truly embed it. Students and their parents need to be taken on the same journey as your leadership and educators – understanding the drivers behind the digital strategy and what you are trying to achieve.
Students need to understand what is expected of them when using digital devices to engage in lessons – as do parents, particularly if more learning is happening from home in the short to mid-term future. It’s important, again, to ensure the core vision and strategy is communicated effectively to students and parents, and that you understand what support they need to ensure the best possible educational outcomes.
We’re giving suppliers and senior leaders in education the opportunity to get involved in bespoke roundtables to discuss arising issues in the sector. If you’re interested in getting involved, get in touch.